It doesn’t matter how old you are. Your race or nationality are insignificant. Male or female is not the issue, nor is whether you are a follower of Jesus Christ or an agnostic. We all have this one thing in common, and it is the lot of everyone ever born under the sun:
Each of us knows what it is to sorrow, to weep, to lose and to hurt. This is the common bond which all humans share.
Yet for those of us who are children of God through faith in Christ, there is an element of our sorrowing that is extremely important. You see, our sorrow – and ours alone – is temporary. The Christian’s sorrow has been placed on a timer, and beyond the moments of this earthly journey our sorrow is forbidden to continue. Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians and put it this way, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He speaks of an altogether different manner of processing the grief and hurt which we experience down here. His pastoral heart yearned for those who followed him to process their sorrow in a manner wholly different than those who had no hope in Christ. The Apostle understood that there is a distinction between how believers respond to tragedy versus the way non-believers process it. After asserting that distinction, Paul then immediately transitions to speaking of the coming of our Lord as the reason why sorrow will must not own us (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). In essence, he tells his flock that the return of Jesus Christ must remain at the forefront of our thinking and, in so doing, sorrow will not be the controlling factor in our lives. Friends, sorrow and pain certainly carry weight… but the glory of God is greater still!
As we repeatedly recognize that we are inhabitants of a very dangerous and wicked world, we must lift our gazes higher, knowing that we shall soon be with the Prince of Peace. The enemy rages this morning as he has always raged. The hatred, violence and corruption of this age oozes further outward, contaminating more and more people, ideas and activities. Your flesh is no more sanctified than it ever was or ever will be – we don’t sanctify the flesh…we crucify it. When Muslim terrorists place their values on display by gunning down homosexuals, we are forced to confess that, no matter what we think of what has happened in Orlando, sin touches every angle of the scene. As the global nations appear to be spiraling into irretrievable chaos, we must rejoice in an Anchor that is not contingent upon the goings on in this world. Remember with me that this earth and the works therein are destined by God for destruction (2 Peter 3:10-13). Our hope is not here at all. Our Hope is enthroned in glory, and He will leave that paradise yet again to come and establish His rule upon the new earth. We who have bowed to Him here and now will reign with Him there and then. The saints of all the ages will experience that glorified merger with one another, and the church of Jesus Christ will be complete. So cry your tears now – you will not be able to when the King returns. Let pain run its due course – it eventually runs out completely. Determine that your sorrow will drive you further out of your fallen flesh, and will simultaneously bring you nearer to the Eternal Counselor who has appointed a future day-of-no-tears for us. Lift up empty, holy and sometimes helpless hands to your Abba Father who never tires of cradling you in His arms of gentle omnipotence. Tell Him of your weakness, your fears, your pains. But, wait. You are not done yet. When that confession of your weakness is complete, then sing to Him in triumph these words of praise:
That word above all earthly powers
No thanks to them, abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill,
God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever.
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” – Martin Luther, 1529